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Nebraska reversed a multiyear downward trend in the Learfield Directors’ Cup standings with its best finish in five years.
The final 2020-21 standings were released Friday morning, two days after the last NCAA champion was crowned when Mississippi State won the College World Series.
For just the second time in the Cup’s 28-year history, a school other than Stanford finished first. Texas landed the top spot on the strength of three national titles — men’s swimming and diving, women’s rowing and women’s tennis — along with a runner-up finish in women’s volleyball and a deep CWS run.
Nebraska (568 points) took 35th, which ranks seventh in the 14-team Big Ten. Michigan (1,126.5) led the league and finished third nationally ahead of Ohio State (972.5), which was ninth overall. The next closest Big Ten school was No. 28 Minnesota (727), followed by No. 30 Iowa (658.5), No. 31 Northwestern (639.5) and No. 34 Indiana (569.5).
The Cup gives points to each school that makes the postseason of a given sport. The national champion is awarded 100 points, and points descend incrementally from there. Schools can score in up to 20 sports (10 men’s and 10 women’s) of their choosing. Schools with more sports, especially niche Olympic sports, tend to do better.
Nebraska thought enough of the Directors’ Cup to include an incentive in the contract of former Athletic Director Bill Moos for good performance. But Moos in his short tenure never reached the bonus, which kicked in at an NU finish of 30th or better. The Huskers ended 44th in 2017-18 and 48th in 2018-19 before the pandemic canceled last year’s race. Those two finishes were each record lows for Nebraska.
Nebraska took 27th in 2015-16 before beginning its descent the next year at 37th.
The school’s best performance this year came from the bowling team, which collected 100 points with a national title. The only fall sport to score was volleyball (73), which finished No. 6 in the final AVCA poll and reached the regional finals of the NCAA tournament.
Neither basketball team contributed in the winter. Men’s gymnastics (80) scored highly after placing fourth at the NCAA championships with five All-Americans. Wrestling (64.5), rifle (64), women’s swimming (48) and men’s indoor track (30.5) also added to the total.
Baseball (50) scored highly in the spring after finishing 17th in the country with a Big Ten title. Women’s golf — rarely a factor for Cup considerations — added 23 as Kate Smith won a league crown and led the team to its first NCAA regional since 2008. Men’s outdoor track and field (35) rounded out NU’s contributors, led by national bronze medalist Mayson Conner in the high jump.
North Carolina (1,126.25) and Florida (1,121.75) completed the overall top five behind Texas, Stanford and Michigan. Nebraska finished just behind teams like Washington and Indiana, and just ahead of Clemson and Wisconsin.
Nebraska has put years of research and preparation into Thursday’s NIL kickoff. Now the school is armed with educational programming and internal support structures for Husker student-athletes.
Previous NU finishes in the Directors' Cup:
2019-20: Canceled (pandemic)
Other local schools
» Creighton (89 points) finished tied for 162nd overall and tied for fourth in the Big East with Marquette, behind Georgetown (339), Connecticut (235.5) and Villanova (205). The Bluejays scored the majority of their points from men’s basketball (64).
» UNO ended in a 12-way tie for 182nd overall with 75 points. The Mavs were sixth in the eight-team Summit League. Denver (408.25) finished atop the league and was 51st overall.
» In the NAIA standings, Morningside College finished 11th, Midland University tied for 12th, Concordia University was 14th, Doane University was 24th and Hastings College placed 45th.
UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green, in an interview with The World-Herald, discussed the timeline for hiring a new athletic director and the qualities he wants in potential candidates.